Tim's Council Diary: The most wonderful time of the year

22 Dec 2023
Helen Morgan

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, that's right: this week the Government published The Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement 2024-25.

The Local Government Association (LGA) which represents Councils and Councillors published an on-the-day briefing summarising the key announcements.

TL:DR - its not going to be enough for many Councils who will remain under enormous pressure.

We're crunching the numbers of the impact here in Folkestone & Hythe, and we will use that to update or budget forecasts in the New Year. Our initial reaction is that actually we thought it might be worse for us. We planned for the worst, and its not quite that for Folkestone and Hythe as far as we can see.

But as Liberal Democrat Local Government Spokesperson Helen Morgan MP (pictured above, I know you were wondering) said:

“For years this Conservative Government slashed local budgets, overseeing brutal cuts to vital services. They have pushed local government to a cliff edge and ministers are scrambling at the last minute to avoid yet more bankruptcies.

“This funding may not even be enough to keep local authorities afloat, and will do nothing to plug the gap in our social care sector, which is already caught in the grip of a generational crisis.”

Quite.

Some Key points from the LGA and the LGA Liberal Democrat Group

  • The funding uplift announced by the Government this week assumes that all councils will increase their council tax bills by the maximum allowed in 2024/25. This means councils are again left facing the difficult choice about raising bills to bring in desperately needed funding.
  • Today's settlement does not provide enough funding to meet the severe cost and demand pressures which have left councils of all political colours and types warning of the serious challenges they face to set balanced budgets next year. Councils in England continue to face a funding gap of £4 billion over the next two years as today’s announcement does not change the funding gap facing councils this year and next.
  • It is therefore unthinkable that Government has not provided desperately needed new funding for local services in 2024/25. Although councils are working hard to reduce costs where possible, this means the local services our communities rely on every day are nowexposed to further cuts. 
  • No council is now immune to the growing risk to their financial sustainability. The Government urgently needs to address the growing financial crisis facing councils and come up with a long-term plan to sufficiently fund local services through multi-year settlements.
  • An LGA survey – published ahead of the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement – found that:
    • One in five council leaders and chief executives in England think it is very or fairly likely their council will need to issue a Section 114 notice this year or next.
    • Half are not confident they will have enough funding to fulfil their legal duties next year (2024/25). This includes the delivery of statutory services

This Government have pretty much broken many Councils ability to operate. Its going to take new support, probably from a new Government, to start to turn that around. Many, like Kent County Council, remain in desperate trouble.

That's it: final diary for 2023 published - I'll give you all a well deserved week off next vweek. See you in 2024: have a great Christmas (and, er, don't forget that your bin collection times change over the holiday fortnight).